, Salem, MA


December 28, 2013

Auto Scanner: Gas gauge malfunctioning in ’06 Trailblazer


Q: I have a 1996 Saturn with (the odometer says) 67,000 miles on it (which we do not believe, but anyway...) Here is what is happening: The car will suddenly accelerate at certain times. For instance, while idling at a traffic light with the brake 75 percent of the way down, it will suddenly accelerate. If the brake is 100 percent (to the floor), you can see the arrow (rpm) move vigorously, but the car does not accelerate. If I am at a drive-thru, I make sure I put it in park to prevent acceleration (if I think quickly, I can prevent the acceleration right before it occurs, for instance as I am slowing down in traffic) Needless to say, I have taken it off the road until I figure it out. It was a perfect little car for my daughter to go back and forth to high school, and I would like your opinion on what you think you could be wrong and if it is worth trying to eke out another year or two.

A: Sounds to me like you have an idle air control motor that’s lost its marbles. This is not a hard problem to diagnose. Here’s the deal. If your idle is jumping up and down, the technician has to monitor the IAC to see if it’s acting on its own or being commanded to step the idle up. Least expensive repair would be if it’s acting on its own, and a replacement with a cleaning is all that’s needed.

Car Care Tip: What’s the difference between an engine and a motor? Motors are driven by electricity; engines are internal combustion. From my family to yours, Happy New Year, with a healthy 2014.


Larry Rubenstein is a master technician who owns a North Shore service station. His column appears every Saturday. Write to Larry at The Salem News, c/o Auto Scanner, 32 Dunham Road, Beverly, MA 01915, or send an email to

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